Factbox: Targets of US House Panel’s Trump Probe

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday requested documents from 81 people and organizations as part of an investigation into alleged obstruction of justice and other abuses by President Donald Trump and others.

Among those on the list are familiar names like former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who will be sentenced this month for lobbying and fraud violations; former lawyer Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and breaking campaign finance laws; and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Other key figures who received document requests:

Trump family

Donald Trump Jr. – Trump’s oldest son is a top surrogate for his father in conservative circles and helps run his business. During the 2016 campaign, he set up a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised damaging information on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Eric Trump – Trump’s second-oldest son helps oversee his business, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

​Jared Kushner – Trump’s son-in-law is a top White House adviser who formerly ran Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate business.

White House and outside advisers

Don McGahn – The former White House legal counsel was intimately involved in a wide range of administration decisions. He is now back in private practice.

Jeff Sessions – A longtime U.S. senator from Alabama, Sessions served as a top campaign aide and Trump’s first attorney general. Trump fired him in November 2018 after frequently expressing anger that Sessions removed himself from the department’s investigation of possible ties between the campaign and Russia.

Jay Sekulow – The Washington lawyer is helping Trump respond to the various investigations as part of his legal team. Cohen told Congress last week that Sekulow had helped him craft a misleading statement about efforts to build a Trump tower in Moscow.

Reince Priebus – The Wisconsin lawyer headed the Republican National Committee during the 2016 election and served as Trump’s first chief of staff.

​K.T. McFarland – The former Fox News analyst was Trump’s deputy national security adviser under Flynn but was asked to resign by Flynn’s successor, H.R. McMaster.

Sean Spicer – Trump’s first White House press secretary sometimes struggled to explain his boss’s positions to an often-adversarial press corps.

Steve Bannon – Bannon encouraged Trump’s nationalist instincts as the campaign’s chief executive officer and served as his chief strategist at the White House until he left in August 2017.

Hope Hicks – She was a Trump Organization employee who was one of the first staff members of Trump’s campaign and worked in the White House, specializing in communications, until March 2018.

​Trump Organization

Allen Weisselberg – As chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, he has been intimately involved with the business for decades. Federal prosecutors have granted him immunity.

Alan Garten – The top lawyer at the Trump Organization.

Sheri Dillon – A tax lawyer, Dillon helped Trump deal with the IRS’s audit of his tax returns and signed off on a conflict-of-interest plan before Trump took office that let him retain ownership of his business empire.

Rhona Graff – A longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization.

Felix Sater – A convicted felon and Russian-American businessman, Sater worked with Cohen to try to build a Trump-branded tower in Moscow during the campaign. He is due to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this month.

Trump campaign

Brad Parscale – The digital-media director for Trump’s 2016 campaign is now heading up his 2020 re-election effort.

Corey Lewandowski – Trump’s first campaign manager.

Michael Caputo – A communications adviser for Trump’s campaign.

Carter Page – The FBI concluded during the campaign that Page, a foreign-policy adviser, was probably an agent for the Russian government.

​George Papadopoulos – The junior foreign-policy adviser tried to set up a meeting between the Kremlin and top campaign officials. He pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and served 14 days in prison.

Others

David Pecker – The head of tabloid publisher American Media pursued “catch and kill” agreements with women who claimed to have slept with Trump in an attempt to buy their silence.

Erik Prince – The former head of military contractor Blackwater USA worked informally with Trump’s transition team after the election. He is the brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

​Julian Assange – The head of WikiLeaks oversaw efforts to release internal emails from the Clinton campaign during the election.

Organizations

Justice Department – The committee is seeking documents on a wide range of subjects, including Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey; Trump’s firing of Sessions in November 2018; and communications between Trump and Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general after Sessions left.

FBI – The committee is asking similar questions of the FBI.

General Services Administration – The agency responsible for managing federal property decided after Trump’s 2016 election that he could maintain his lease on the Old Post Office Building, a showcase property blocks from the White House that Trump has transformed into a hotel. The agency’s internal watchdog said in January that the arrangement might violate the U.S. Constitution.

Trump 2016 presidential campaign

Trump Organization – The committee is seeking documents relating to foreign governments, payments to Cohen and American Media, and financial arrangements with Russian businesses or individuals, among other topics.

Trump Transition – The organization responsible for setting up his administration after the November 2016 election.

Trump Foundation – Trump’s charity, which shut down in December amid an investigation by the New York attorney general, who accused it of serving as a checkbook to further Trump’s business and political interests.

National Rifle Association – The gun-rights group, a major player in conservative U.S. political circles, has attracted scrutiny for possible ties to Russian figures.



Lawsuit: Trump Associate Sater Hacked Celebrity Information

A Russia-born businessman with ties to President Donald Trump is accused in a civil lawsuit of hacking a Hollywood friend’s electronics and accessing confidential information about her celebrity clients.

The lawsuit filed Friday in New York accuses Felix Sater and his assistant of creating an electronic backdoor to remotely access computers at the home of his friend, Stella Bulochnikov Stolper.

She’s an ex-manager for Mariah Carey. A phone call seeking comment was made to Sater’s lawyer Monday.

Sater is due to testify before Congress next week about his work trying to get a Trump skyscraper built in Moscow.

Stolper says she knew Sater from childhood and invited him and his assistant to live with her after reconnecting with Sater in 2017. Stolper also says Sater wanted help shopping his life story to Hollywood.



McConnell: Senate Has Enough Votes to Reject Trump Wall Emergency

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged Monday that opponents of President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border have enough votes in the Republican-led Senate to prevail on a resolution aimed at blocking the move.

McConnell, who fell in line behind Trump despite his own misgivings about the declaration, said Trump will veto the resolution and that it’s likely to be sustained in Congress. McConnell’s remarks in his home state came after fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul became the latest GOP lawmaker to say he can’t go along with the White House on the emergency declaration.

“I think what is clear in the Senate is there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval, which will then be vetoed by the president and then, in all likelihood, the veto will be upheld in the House,” McConnell told reporters.

Besides Paul, other Republican senators who have announced they’ll defy Trump on the issue are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. With those four, and assuming that all 47 Democrats and their independent allies go against Trump, that would give opponents 51 votes — just past the majority needed.

The Democratic-led House recently voted to upend Trump’s declaration, which he declared to circumvent Congress and funnel billions of extra dollars to erecting his proposed border wall.

Asked Monday if the Senate can try to amend the resolution, McConnell said senators have been consulting with the parliamentarian about “what options there are, if any.”

McConnell, who has worked closely with Trump on the tax system overhaul, the selection of conservative judges and other issues, acknowledged he had counseled the president against making the declaration. The Senate leader said he’s worried Trump’s move would set a precedent for future Democratic presidents to make such a declaration for their own purposes.

“That’s one reason I argued, obviously without success to the president, that he not take this route,” McConnell said.

Many lawmakers opposed to the emergency declaration say it tramples Congress’ constitutional power to control spending. They also are concerned Trump would siphon money from home-state projects to barrier construction.

McConnell didn’t comment Monday on Paul’s position on the declaration. At a GOP dinner this past weekend in Kentucky, Paul said: “I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress.

“We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing,” Paul added, according to the Bowling Green [Ky.] Daily News.

Under the declaration, Trump would divert $3.6 billion from military construction to erect more border barriers. He’s invoking other powers to transfer an additional $3.1 billion to construction. Lawsuits have been filed aimed at derailing the declaration, which could at least prevent Trump from getting the extra money for months or more.



On Selma Anniversary, Presidential Candidate Booker Calls for New Fight for Justice

Thunder rolling above Brown Chapel AME Church, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker warned Sunday of a looming threat to American democracy and called for protecting the legacy of the civil rights movement with love and action.

“It’s time for us to defend the dream,” Booker said in a keynote speech at Brown Chapel, which two generations ago was the starting point of a peaceful demonstration in support of voting rights that ended in beatings on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The infamous “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965, galvanized support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act that year.

“It’s time that we dare to dream again in America. That is what it takes to make America great. It is up to us to do the work that makes the dream real,” said Booker, a New Jersey senator and one of three White House hopefuls who participated in events commemorating the march.

Saying America faces challenges, Booker said: “People want to make it just about the people in the highest offices of the land.

People who traffic in hatred, people in office that defend Nazis or white supremacists, people that point fingers and forget the lessons of King. What we must repent for are not just the vitriolic words and actions of bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of good people.”

Also visiting Selma on Sunday were Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Joining them was Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in 2016. Booker and Brown, along with Clinton and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, marched with dozens of others Sunday afternoon to Edmund Pettus Bridge. Sanders had left for a campaign event in Chicago.

The throng of marchers had set out from the church and sang freedom songs under a stormy sky as they headed to that sacred spot over the Alabama River to commemorate the peaceful protesters who were met with tear gas and clubs wielded by state troopers.

This year’s commemoration came in the early days of a Democratic presidential primary campaign that has focused heavily on issues of race. Several candidates have called President Donald Trump a racist, while others have voiced support for the idea of reparations for the descendants of enslaved black Americans.

Booker and Sanders have already announced their campaigns. Brown is still considering a White House bid. The three gathered for a unity breakfast in Selma to pay homage to its civil rights legacy and highlight how the movement shaped their personal narratives.

For the New Jersey senator, much of the day felt personal. In Brown Chapel he sat next to Jackson, for whom he cast his first ballot as an 18-year-old during Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. He later marched to the bridge alongside Jackson, their arms locked together.

In his speech, Booker linked the 1965 Selma demonstration to the lawyer who volunteered to help his family buy a home in a white neighborhood after they were discriminated against and repeatedly denied.

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for marchers on a bridge who inspired a man a thousand miles away in New Jersey,” he said. “The dream is under attack. You honor history by emulating it, by us recommitting ourselves to it.”

Brown, currently on a “Dignity of Work” tour inspired by King, returned to Selma for the fifth time. He frequently draws connections between civil rights and worker’s rights. A former secretary of state in Ohio, Brown also has a reputation as a leader on expanding voter participation.

“We need to understand what happened here and we need to talk about it so we keep fighting on these issues,” Brown told reporters at the breakfast. “It’s clear we make progress and then we fall back because of Republican attacks on voting rights.”

Claiming that the Georgia governor election was stolen from Democrat Stacey Abrams, Brown said: “It’s not just a Southern issue, of course. In the north we see all kinds of changes in voting laws. We see suppression of the vote in 2016, purging of voters in my state in a big way. This fight continues. It’s become personal in many ways because voting rights are so important to our country.”

Sanders attended the 1963 March on Washington, which featured the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Sanders has highlighted his civil rights and activist background as a young man at the University of Chicago. He is working to strengthn his relationship with black voters, with whom he struggled to connect in the 2016 Democratic primary that Clinton won.

Clinton told those at Brown Chapel that the absence of crucial parts of the Voting Rights Act contributed to her 2016 loss to Trump.

The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a part of the law that required the Justice Department to scrutinize states with a history of racial discrimination in voting.  

Clinton said “it makes a really big difference” and warned of the need for continued vigilance about voter suppression heading into the 2020 election.

The backdrop of Selma provides a spotlight on voting rights. Advocates say the gains achieved as a result of “Bloody Sunday” have been threatened in recent years, particularly by the 2013 Supreme Court decision.

Voter suppression emerged as a key issue in the 2018 midterm elections in states such as Georgia and North Carolina, where a Republican congressional candidate was accused of rigging the contest there through absentee ballots. House Democrats signaled they plan to make ballot access a priority in the new Congress, introducing legislation aimed at protecting voting rights in 2020 and beyond. 



Rand Paul Becomes 4th Republican to Oppose Trump Emergency Declaration

U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has become the fourth Republican to vow to oppose President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, likely giving the Senate enough votes to pass a resolution blocking it.

“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” Paul told guests at a GOP dinner at Western Kentucky University, according to the Bowling Green Daily News.

Paul joins Republicans senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina in his opposition. If all 47 Senate Democrats vote as expected, the Senate has enough votes to pass a resolution with 51 votes.

Thirteen Republicans in the House joined Democrats last week to pass a resolution to block Trump’s emergency declaration. If it passes the Senate, the resolution will go to the president, who has promised to veto it.

Neither chamber has enough votes to overturn a veto by Trump — two-thirds of each chamber is needed to overturn a veto.

Trump made the declaration in February after Congress approved just $1.375 billion for border security, far short of the $5.7 billion he had sought.

He plans to divert about $6.2 billion to build his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He is seeking to use $3.6 billion from military construction, $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction program, and $600 million from a Treasury Department drug forfeiture program, in addition to the money from Congress.

“We’re being invaded by drugs, by people, by criminals, and we have to stop it,”Trump has said in justifying the action.

While some Republicans support the action, others have rejected it.

“What we see happening along the border – the amount of drugs, the amount of deaths in America, the human trafficking that’s coming across, the overwhelming problem there. So the president has the authority to do it,” Republican Congressman  Kevin McCarthy said.

But Senator Collins calls the president’s move “ill-advised precisely because it attempts to shortcut the process of checks and balances by usurping Congress’ authority.”

VOA’s Michael Bowman contributed to this report.



FACT CHECK: Trump’s Epic Speech Is Laced With Fabrication

President Donald Trump uttered a dizzying number of false statements in his epically long weekend speech, to an audience that didn’t seem to mind at all.

He got the unemployment rate wrong. He misstated his winning margin in the election. He reprised some of his most frequently told fictions and dusted off old ones, even going back to the size of his inauguration crowd.

A look at some of his words in his two-hour-plus speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday:

UNEMPLOYMENT

TRUMP: “We’re down to 3.7 percent unemployment, the lowest number in a long time.”

THE FACTS: The unemployment rate is 4 percent. It was 3.7 percent in September.

DIVERSITY VISAS

TRUMP: On the diversity visa lottery program: “They send us the people they don’t want.”

THE FACTS: A persistent falsehood. “They,” meaning other countries, do not select citizens for the U.S. program. Foreigners decid on their own to apply for it. They must meet education or skills benchmarks to apply and those who are tentatively selected through the lottery must pass background checks before being confirmed.

Trump attributed similar characteristics to migrant caravans from Central America, suggesting governments try to get rid of their bad people by putting them in caravans for the U.S. Again, migrants are self-selected, not told to march to the U.S.

RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

TRUMP: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team has “13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country.”

THE FACTS: Mueller is a longtime Republican and party affiliation cuts both ways — or no way at all — in the varied background of the team. Some have donated campaign money to Democrats. The team is not known to be particularly or historically angry.

CROWD SIZE

TRUMP on what he considers false reporting about his crowd sizes: “They did the same thing at our big inauguration speech. You take a look at those crowds. …We had a crowd, I’ve never seen anything like it. … There were people (from) the Capitol down to the Washington Monument.”

THE FACTS: The National Park Service released dozens of photos of the crowd gathered for his inauguration ceremony and it was clear from them that crowds did not extend to the Washington Monument from the Capitol. Large swaths of empty space were visible on the National Mall.

The park service also released photos from President Barack Obama’s two inaugurations, showing that his 2009 event far outstripped the number of people who attended Trump’s inauguration.

It released the photos in response to news media requests made through the Freedom of Information Act after Trump and his aides accused news organizations of framing or timing photos and video to make it look like not many people came.

JAMES COMEY

TRUMP: “Every single Democrat said Comey should be fired” for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails late in the campaign. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer “called for his resignation many times.”

THE FACTS: Not true. Democrats did not universally — or even broadly — call for Comey to be fired despite their anger over his decision to go public before Election Day with news that the FBI had renewed its investigation of Clinton’s handling of her emails. Several Democratic lawmakers did want him out, but they were a distinct minority.

Schumer said he had lost confidence in Comey but did not urge his removal, telling Bloomberg News he wanted to speak with the FBI chief “to restore my faith.” The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, also held off on asking for Comey to step down, while musing: “Maybe he’s not in the right job.” Trump fired him months later.

GREEN NEW DEAL

TRUMP: “No planes, no energy. …Perhaps nothing is more extreme than the Democrats’ plan to completely take over American energy, and completely destroy America’s economy through their new $100 trillion dollar Green New Deal. …It would end air travel.”

THE FACTS: He’s ignoring the actual provisions of the plan, which would not ban air travel or end traditional sources of energy. The plan, backed by some liberal Democrats but greeted cautiously or opposed by others in the party, does call for a drastic drop in greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.

Trump is extrapolating from a fact sheet that initially accompanied the plan, then was disavowed and withdrawn by its sponsors. It proposed building high-speed rail at a scale “where air travel stops becoming necessary.”

2016 ELECTION

TRUMP, on his Electoral College win: “We didn’t get to 270. We got 306.”

THE FACTS: Trump misstates the Electoral College vote in his 2016 presidential race against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The official count was 304 to 227, according to an Associated Press tally of the electoral votes in every state.

HEALTH CARE

TRUMP: “We have some great private coverage. And we have initiated some incredible plans, like the new cooperative plan, where you get better insurance than Obamacare for a fraction of the cost.”

THE FACTS: He’s glossing over the limitations of his administration’s expanded health care options, which involve both short term and association plans. They offer lower premiums than comprehensive plans such as those under the Affordable Care Act but cover less.

Short-term plans don’t have to take people with medical conditions or provide benefits such as coverage for maternity, mental health, prescription drugs and substance abuse treatment. Association health plans do have to accept people with pre-existing medical conditions, but they don’t have to cover the full menu of 10 “essential” kinds of benefits required by Obamacare.

Gary Claxton of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation says short-term plans may turn out to be more costly than Trump administration officials suggest. The plans now cover up to 90 days, but if insurers expand them to offer up to 36 months’ coverage, the companies will be taking on more risk. “You’ll have to pay more up front because there’s a longer time during which you could get sick,” he said.

MIDTERM ELECTIONS

TRUMP: “We were given no credit. I can’t go and campaign for all of the people in the House. There’s too many.”

TRUMP, on his endorsement of Florida candidate for governor, Ron DeSantis: “I said, ‘Ron, Don’t make me do this, Ron.’ ‘Sir, I can win.’ Alright, Ron, here we go. Because I know if he loses — which almost never happens when I endorse someone, almost never. Only one time, that was because it was done in the middle of the day of the election… But we very rarely lose.”

THE FACTS: Trump is wrong to suggest that almost every candidate he endorsed and campaigned for in the November midterm elections — except for perhaps one — won.

Two Republicans whom Trump strongly backed in their Senate races — Montana’s Matt Rosendale and West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey — lost to Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and Joe Manchin, respectively. Trump had visited Montana four times and West Virginia three times to rally voters. Trump also campaigned for two other Senate losers: incumbent Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and Leah Vukmir in Wisconsin.

In the House, Republican Rep. Jason Lewis lost his race in Minnesota to Democrat Angie Craig, whom he had defeated by 2 percentage points in 2016. Trump endorsed Lewis and campaigned for him.

VETERANS

TRUMP, on the Choice program for veterans: “I got that approved after 44 years of being unable to get it approved for our veterans.”

THE FACTS: False. Congress approved the private-sector Veterans Choice health program in 2014 and President Barack Obama signed it into law. Trump is expanding it.

TRUMP: “We are taking care of our veterans like they have never been taken care of before. We just got them Choice so they can now go see a doctor. Now they can go see a doctor instead of waiting on line for weeks and weeks and weeks.”

THE FACTS: Veterans still must wait for weeks.

While it’s true the VA recently announced plans to expand eligibility for veterans in the Veterans Choice program, it remains limited due in part to uncertain money and longer waits.

The program currently allows veterans to see doctors outside the VA system if they must wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. Under new rules to take effect in June, veterans will have that option for a private doctor if their VA wait is only 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is only 30 minutes.

But the expanded Choice eligibility may do little to provide immediate help.

That’s because veterans often must wait even longer for an appointment in the private sector. Last year, then-Secretary David Shulkin said VA care is “often 40 percent better in terms of wait times” compared with the private sector. In 2018, 34 percent of all VA appointments were with outside physicians, down from 36 percent in 2017.

Choice came into effect after some veterans died while waiting months for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.

SHUTDOWN

TRUMP: “I flew to Iraq — the first time I left the White House, because I stayed at the White House for months and months because I wanted the Democrats to get back from their vacations from Hawaii and these other places.”

THE FACTS: Trump actually left the White House plenty of times during the “months and months” surrounding the partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22.

Besides his trip to Iraq and Germany on Dec. 26-27, Trump traveled to the Mexican border town of McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10. On Jan. 14, he also went to New Orleans to address the American Farm Bureau. He’s left the White House during the five-week shutdown for meetings at Camp David and the Capitol.

Shortly before the shutdown began, he traveled to Philadelphia to watch the Army-Navy football game (Dec. 8), visited Kansas City for a law enforcement conference (Dec. 7), attended former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral (Dec. 5), participated in the G-20 summit in Argentina in late November; and hosted “Make America Great Again” rallies in Mississippi with Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith (Nov. 26). He hosted a dinner on Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.



US Congress Wades Into Britain’s Brexit Drama

With Britain deadlocked on negotiating its divorce from the European Union, an unexpected side-front is emerging, the U.S. Congress.

Conservatives who pushed the June 2016 referendum that ended in the shock decision to leave the 28-member bloc dangled the prospect of a free trade agreement with the United States as proof that Britain would not be isolated.

But while nationalist-minded President Donald Trump has welcomed Brexit, the main hitch to Britain’s exit has raised alarm among key U.S. lawmakers — the prospect of the return of a physical border that divides Ireland.

The elimination of the border between the Republic of Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland was a key component of the Good Friday agreement of 1998, brokered with the United States and made possible through the fruition of the integrated EU, which largely ended three decades of conflict that killed around 3,500 people.

Unified Ireland

Representative Peter King, long one of the highest-profile supporters in Congress of a unified Ireland, warned at a recent event in Washington that the direction of Brexit would be critical to any future U.S. trade deal.

“It’s important for we, as Irish Americans, to make clear when we deal with the British that this is very, very important to us,” he said.

“And if the British want to consider any type of trade agreement with the United States, it’s important that a soft border be maintained.”

While King is a Republican, his stance has appeared to gain steam since the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in November because of the party’s historic Irish base and its generally more skeptical take on free trade.

Representative Richard Neal, a co-chairman of the Friends of Ireland Caucus who has voiced unease about Brexit’s effects, has taken charge of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which will review any trade deal.

Eleven lawmakers led by a Democrat recently introduced a resolution that would state the House of Representatives’ opposition to a hard border in Ireland.

Worries politely rebuffed

Daniel Dalton, a British Conservative member of the European parliament who visited Washington for talks with U.S. lawmakers, voiced concern that the Irish question could hold up a U.S.-Britain trade agreement.

He rebuffed, ever politely, U.S lawmakers’ worries on Ireland, saying that nobody was out to end the Good Friday agreement.

“I think the worry is a little bit that there might be an assumption from people here and that they jump into a discussion on what is a hugely complex issue when there is no will from London or from Dublin to have a hard border,” Dalton told AFP.

“That is a point that we have to make time and time again,” he said.

“The issue is how do we ensure that the Good Friday agreement isn’t accidentally breached, which is a very different position to start off from,” he added.

Brexit day March 29

Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, with Prime Minister Theresa May scrambling to seek changes after the House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected her divorce deal negotiated with the EU.

May has given MPs the option to delay Brexit and the opposition Labour Party has supported a fresh referendum.

Dalton said that the possibility of a U.S.-Britain trade agreement played “a very big psychological role” for Brexit voters, seeing as Washington has not been able to seal a deal with the EU as a whole.

A major issue, Dalton said, will be seeing whether post-Brexit Britain gravitates toward U.S. or EU standards on agriculture and manufacturing, crucial in sealing a trade pact.

For Dalton himself, the results of Brexit will not be abstract: He will be out of a job.

And the European lawmaker may not find comfort in going back to Britain as his wife is German.

“We, like many people, aren’t sure where actually we can live together and how all these things are going to play out,” he said. “And there are many couples across that particularly divide.”



Anti-Muslim Signs in Statehouse Roil West Virginia, Draw Outrage

An anti-Muslim poster outside the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber falsely connecting a freshman congresswoman to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has drawn strong rebukes from local and national lawmakers, while causing the resignation of a Capitol staffer and the reported injury of another.

The sign, which loomed over a table loaded with other Islamophobic flyers on a “WV GOP Day” at the legislature Friday, bore an image of the burning World Trade Center juxtaposed with a picture of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim congresswomen ever elected. “‘Never forget’ — You said,” was written over the Twin Towers. On Omar’s picture, a caption read, “I am the proof you have forgotten.”

 

​On Saturday, the West Virginia’s Republican Party condemned the appearance of the anti-Muslim flyers and posters.

“Our party supports freedom of speech, but we do not endorse speech that advances intolerant and hateful views,” West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter wrote in a statement, which added that they did not approve of the sign and had asked the exhibitor to remove it. No one acknowledged permitting the display.

Designated hate group

The group responsible for the display, ACT for America, has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Onlookers outside the House chambers Friday snapped photos of the poster and the additional literature.

“Readin’, Writin’, And Jihadin,’ The Islamization of American Public Schools,” read one of the pamphlets. Another flyer warned of “The Four Stages of Islamic Conquest.”

A phone number listed for the organization went straight to a voicemail box that was full and could not accept messages. The answering machine message described the group as “the nation’s largest nonprofit grassroots organization devoted to promoting national security and defeating terrorism.”

‘Beyond shameful’

Many House delegates denounced the group just as the body convened. One lawmaker admitted to getting so mad that he kicked a House door open, which resulted in a doorkeeper being physically injured, according to the speaker of the House. Another delegate grew furious, saying he had heard a staffer make an anti-Muslim remark.

“The sergeant of arms of this body, that represents the people of the state of West Virginia, said, ‘All Muslims are terrorists.’ That’s beyond shameful,” said Del. Michael Angelucci, a Democrat, his voice rising to a shout. “And that’s not freedom of speech. That’s hate speech, and it has no place in this house.”

The sergeant of arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned later Friday. She has declined to comment after being reached by phone by The Associated Press.

Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw questioned how things had gone so wrong.

“We owe it to ourselves; we owe it our constituents; we owe it to the men and women and children and families that we represent to do better than we are,” Hanshaw told lawmakers.

“We have allowed national level politics to become a cancer on our state, to become a cancer on our legislature, to invade our chamber in a way that frankly makes me ashamed,” Hanshaw said.



Sanders Holds Campaign Kickoff Rally in Birthplace

Bernie Sanders, the independent U.S. senator who represented third-party interests in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, on Saturday stepped back into the spotlight with a rally for his 2020 run at the presidency. 

 

The rally at Brooklyn College, which he attended, was meant to showcase a more personal aspect of the candidate not emphasized during his 2016 run. His working-class background — he grew up living in a small, rent-controlled Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment — served to contrast with that of sitting President Donald Trump, who grew up wealthy in nearby Queens. 

 

“I know what it’s like to be in a family that lives paycheck to paycheck,” he said, describing his immigrant father’s struggle to establish himself in the United States. While Sanders made little of his Jewish ancestry in the 2016 race, on Saturday he said his father’s family was “wiped out” in Nazi-occupied Poland. 

 

Sanders also called Trump “the most dangerous president in modern American history,” and promised to fight for “economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice.”  

He also said, “The underlying principles of our government will not be greed, hatred and lies. It will not be racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and religious bigotry. That is going to end.” 

 

Seeking to broaden his appeal to minorities, Sanders will appear in Selma, Ala., on Sunday to participate in events commemorating the Selma civil rights march, which took place in 1965. 

 

While Sanders is one of the best-known candidates of the already crowded race for the 2020 Democratic nomination, he is noted for his grass-roots following, which made him a surprisingly strong challenger to Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton in 2016. 



Trump: Some Lawmakers Probing My Finances Are ‘Sick’

U.S. President Donald Trump addressed a friendly audience Saturday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, capping a tumultuous week highlighted by failed talks at a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and damning testimony before Congress by former personal attorney Michael Cohen. 

 

As expected, the conference was a welcome diversion for Trump. He called special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump 2016 campaign’s possible collusion with Russia “this phony thing that now looks like it’s dying,” and he accused Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and other unnamed “senators and a few congressman” of shifting their focus from that probe to his finances. 

“So they don’t have anything with Russia,” he said. “There’s no collusion. So now they go and morph into ‘Let’s inspect every deal he’s ever done. We’re gonna go into his finances. We’re gonna check his deals.’ These people are sick.”  

 

Trump has been praised at the conference, primarily for fighting illegal immigration, nominating conservative judges and limiting the influence of the federal government.  

 

Trump returned the favor, applauding conference organizers and attendees for being “on the front lines of protecting America’s interests, defending America’s value[s] and reclaiming our nation’s priceless heritage.” 

 

The president discussed the trade war with China and a variety of other topics during a long speech. He did not elaborate on this week’s summit breakdown in Vietnam with North Korean leader Kim, other than to say Pyongyang has a bright economic future without nuclear weapons and that he would get other countries to provide aid to the country if “it all works out.” 

Opposition to socialism

 

It was the Republican president’s third consecutive appearance at the three-day annual conference at National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington, where anti-socialism was the overriding theme. 

 

Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the conference Friday, accusing Democrats of making a “hard left turn” before the 2020 elections and saying voters must choose “between freedom and socialism.” 

 

While the crowded field  of Democratic presidential hopefuls includes progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, there is no shortage of moderate establishment hopefuls such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who is widely expected to join the race.  

 

Some Democrats have openly embraced objectives such as expanding health care coverage, combating climate change and providing debt-free college. Republicans have frequently labeled these Democrats as radical leftists and their agenda as costly socialist, business-unfriendly programs. 

 

The facts, however, don’t support the Republican narrative that the Democratic Party has turned to the left. In the November 2018 midterm elections, 33 of the 40 Republican seats captured by Democrats were taken by candidates endorsed by the moderate NewDem PAC.   

 

Additionally, a Gallup poll conducted last November found that nearly 55 percent of Democrats and independents who tended to vote Democratic wanted the party to be “more moderate,” compared with 41 percent who desired a more liberal party.




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